Berlin 2013 Preview - South African Drama 'Elelwani' (First Venda Production In Film History)

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by Tambay A. Obenson
January 16, 2013 11:09 AM
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The teaser doesn't reveal much (after all, it's a teaser) but there's enough here to get my attention.

Titled Elelwani, this South African drama, a personal project for the South African filmmaker Ntshaveni wa Luruli, the film is said to be the very first Venda production in film history - Venda being the once self-governing quasi-independent bantusan state (a territory set aside for blacks of South Africa during apartheid).

Here's s synopsis:

Shot against the glorious green backdrop of the Thohoyandou area of Limpopo, Elelwani relates the story of a young woman who has to negotiate the demands and rituals of her Venda culture alongside those of her modern aspirations. It deals maturely with conceptions of gender applying sensitivity and balance, and comes to a complex and grounded resolution that functions as a refreshing antidote to many of the hysterical binarisms found in discussions of postcolonial identity. Beyond its sophisticated subject matter, the daringly directed Elelwani is one of the most visually memorable South African films ever made.

The familiar struggles between tradition and so-called "modernity" that is common in lots of continental African cinema. So I'm in!

Watching the teaser trailer below, you can see why it's called "visually memorable," even from this short glimpse.

Here's a more specific description:

Elelwani is a young university-educated woman who has been brought up in an environment steeped in tradition. Her parents have promised her hand in marriage to the Vendaking and, as a dutiful daughter, she wants to obey their wishes. But in order to fulfil her promise, Elelwani must abandon her dreams of travel, further education and -- most importantly -- her commitment to her one true love.

The film is based on a novel by Dr. Titus Maumela that director Ntshaveni initially planned to adapt for television. But thanks to several rejections, decided to make a feature film from the Novel of the same name.

Ntshaveni's last film was the acclaimed, award-winning 2003 feature The Wooden Camera, which is available on DVD internationally, so look for it wherever you dwell.

Elelwani was the opening night film for the 2012 Durban International Film Festival (South Africa’s longest-running film festival), last summer, and will now be making its international premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, in its Forum section (announced this morning).

The Forum program is made up of 41 features that include 22 world premieres. I saw a few more titles of interest, which I'll highlight in later posts.

We should have some on-hand coverage of Berlin this year.

Watch the tease below:

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